Sunday, October 21st, 2007
[cross-posted to the CHRIS AND NANCY Blog, http://benoitbook.blogspot.com]
BENOIT: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport is, unsurprisingly, a hot-selling book immediately upon release. Among wrestling titles in the U.S., only Chris Jerichos well-written memoir and the latest WWE spinoff product, with Batistas name on the cover, are doing better out of the gate. At Amazon Canada where BENOIT has hovered inside or near the list of 100 bestsellers among all books only Jerichos and the long-anticipated blockbuster by Bret Hart are moving more briskly.
Your humble blogger, one of four BENOIT co-authors, thanks Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy, and Greg Oliver for carrying me better than Adrian Adonis covered for Jesse The Body Ventura in tag-team matches.
However, I observe that almost everyone including Steve, Heath, Greg, and our publisher, ECW Press tiptoes around the subject of our book rather more gingerly than necessary. Inevitably, the first posthumous book on Chris Benoit (as well as, in my biased prediction, what will ultimately go down as one of the best) has taken heat on the grounds of taste. But inevitability and legitimacy are not the same thing.
Heres reviewer Mike Jenkinson on the fine Canadian website SLAM! Wrestling: Im leery of rush job books that can be accused rightly or wrongly of trying to capitalize on sensational tragedies by being the first to market with an explanation of what happened.
Lets set aside the point that BENOIT most assuredly does not presume to have an explanation of what happened. (My own forthcoming book CHRIS AND NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestlings Cocktail of Death, which is still in the research stage, will indeed take baby steps toward such an assertion.) Id like to focus on the qualifier rightly or wrongly. I think thats a weasel phrase, characteristic of a disingenuous argument whose English translation is roughly the following: I personally am OK with good reporting and good writing on a story millions of people are interested in. But Im not so sure the rest of the world is ready to handle this.
Well, blow me down, Gertrude. This is nanny criticism, and its time to so label it. Smart wrestling fans, like smart readers, shouldnt need to clear their throats on an ascent to moral high ground.
(I should note here that the producer of SLAM! Wrestling, BENOIT co-author Oliver, recused himself from editing Jenkinson to avoid the appearance of mutual back-scratching or what the old Spy magazine used to call logrolling in our times.)
ECW Press went to pains before publication to emphasize on its blog how sober and responsible the book was going to be, and designed a sedate, text-dominated cover. (At first I lobbied for something a little more direct; now I like the cover, not so much because it pulls punches but because it looks great and it gives our project crossover cachet.)
Which is all OK to a point. That point, I submit, is where no one will call out this phenomenon for what it is: garden-variety denial. Or its walk-loudly-and-carry-a-tiny-stick backlashers for what they are: pencil-neck geeks.
When Congress stops taking a long-overdue look at the wrestling industry as a result of the Benoit fallout when the feds wrap up their prosecution of Phil Astin, the prescription-happy doctor for Benoit and many other wrestlers when all the tangential, multimillion-dollar litigation has run its course when the name Christopher Michael Benoit has exhausted all currency or historical import well, thats when Ill begin apologizing for BENOIT and for CHRIS AND NANCY.
Until then, Id like to ask those of you out there with different viewpoints a few questions.
Upon hearing that he had been elected to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, Dwayne The Rock Johnson told Dave Meltzer, I believe all the wrestlers and people who are in and close to the business all know how much I love the business, and realize that there was [sic] no more challenges or possibilities to grow. I should preface, the intelligent people understand that. The goofs, not so much.
My sentiments exactly. With or without everyone elses permission, I think Ill just continue to commit journalism.